An advanced new mesothelioma treatment developed in Germany is credited for keeping a British man alive – four times longer than he was expected to live.
Sixty-five year old Keith Turnbull of Hertfordshire contracted mesothelioma in 2008 because of asbestos from his father’s worth clothes. Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that is highly resistant to traditional treatments. At the time of his diagnosis, doctors did not expect Turnbull to live beyond six months. But after 13 trips to Germany to received transarterial chemoembolization, Turnbull is still alive, two and a half years later.
Transarterial chemoembolization, pioneered by German Professor Thomas Vogl of the J.W. Goethe University Hospital in Frankfurt, attacks tumors from two directions – simultaneously cutting off their blood supply while flooding them with chemotherapy drugs. By threading a catheter through an artery in the groin up to the mesothelium, where mesothelioma tumors are located, toxic drugs can be administered directly into the cancer cells, while minimizing the exposure of healthy cells. An embolizing agent, which helps cut off the tumor’s blood supply and keeps the chemotherapy drugs in place, is administered through the same tube.
Transarterial chemoembolization is currently used in the U.S. for the treatment of liver tumors. A form of chemoembolization is also being studied for mesothelioma as an adjunct therapy along with radiation and systemic chemotherapy by Dr. Robert Taub at Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center of the Columbia University Medical Center in New York.
Dr. Vogl describes the treatment as palliative and reserved for patients whose mesothelioma is inoperable. Dr. Vogl and his team cite some cases in which mesothelioma tumors have been reduced in size by more than 50 percent, reducing symptoms and improving patients’ quality of life. In one female mesothelioma patient in the U.K., chemoembolization appeared to trigger disease remission. A 5-year German clinical trial to confirm the value of chemoembolization for mesothelioma is ongoing.
Because chemoembolization is an alternative therapy, Turnbull has had to pay out-of-pocket for travel and treatment in Germany, at a cost of £3500 per trip. He is appealing to his neighbors in Hertfordshire to help fund his future treatments.
Binnie, Adam, “Time and Money Running Out for Cancer Sufferer”, April 5, 2011, The Watford Observer,
New Clinical Trial for Patients with Asbestos-Associated Lung Cancer, Medical News Today. June 27, 2008.